How safe do you feel when using apps such as Tinder, Airbnb and Uber? While statistics on the crime rates associated with such platforms are not readily available, there have been enough reported incidents to take the problem seriously. In response, certain apps now provide mobile panic buttons for users to send their exact location directly to emergency services, instead of communicating it verbally to a phone operator.
Mobile phones are ubiquitous and arguably, the most important possession, aside from a wallet, that you carry around with you. We are becoming increasingly dependent on apps for our daily needs and one such need is safety and security. These two elements have led to the creation of in-app panic buttons.
According to a Pew Research Center report on online dating, three in ten U.S. adults have at some point, used a dating app or website. In response to reports of sexual assault and other crimes during dating via the Tinder app, the company plans to allow users to send an alarm when safety is compromised. Tinder’s parent company, Match Group has invested in an app called Noonlight that tracks the location of a user and notifies authorities in the event of safety concerns. Users have an option to hit a panic button and even summon third party security firms.
Big tech companies are attempting to address the dangers inherent in interacting with strangers. The mutual rating system of services such as Uber and Airbnb provide some protection but not enough to deter criminal activity. The on-demand economy has shifted power from businesses to consumers who are demanding protection while using a particular platform. However, companies are not solely doing this to protect their users, but also to protect themselves against liability and reputational damage.
Advances in technology and surveillance have resulted in a conflict between privacy and security. Security services provide peace of mind for users but the trade-off is that one cedes one’s privacy by permitting the company to track your location. Momentum in South Africa has already introduced the mobile panic button feature for its car and home insurance policyholders. The level of take-up elsewhere is yet to be seen.
By Faeeza Khan
Image credit: Becca Tapert